“How do you feel about bummer lambs?”

“Um, no.”

“What do you mean, no? They are so cute.”

“I would love to, but unfortunately — no!”

“But they are free.”

“There are worse things I could agree to. I just can’t think of any at the moment.”

“Your Grandpa is getting some.”

“Let him get some then. But on a scale of maybe to absolutely, I say absolutely not for us! Do you know how much work sheep can be?”

My newly-wedded husband and I continued this conversation for a few more minutes before I went back to work, and he went back to look at the “cute, adorable baby lambs” with my Grandpa.

Girls often have the reputation for being vague and expecting their spouses to read between the lines, but when I hung up the phone that afternoon, I felt I had been overly clear with my opinion — that is, until I arrived home and discovered eight bummer lambs snuggled under a heat-lamp in the barn.

That’s when I realized something all too relevant with human interactions: You may believe you understand what you think someone has said, but what you don’t realize is that what you heard is not what they meant.

My husband also learned something important. No matter how much I say no, once an animal (no matter how scraggly) is on my property, I don’t have the heart to turn it out.

At first, I grumbled as I put on my boots to do middle-of-the-night feedings — but soon those scraggly animals won me over, and I forgave my husband for expecting his opinion to come out of my mouth, and my Grandpa for taking my animal-loving husband to a sheep farm.

That was 13 years — and many, many scraggly animals — ago.

Those original eight lambs quickly multiplied, and soon our pasture was filled with sheep. One of those original bummers, “Dirty Harry,” gave birth the following year to a waspy set of twins. We kept the ewe lamb and named her “Junior.” She could jump out of anything. We should have given her a middle name, just so she could have understood more clearly how much trouble she was in from incident to incident.

As the herd grew, so did the rest of our lives: farming, community, a family of our own — and it wasn’t long before our sheep became numbers on an ear tag instead of pet names. Except for Junior. She was one of a kind. She would come nuzzle for crackers, then abruptly turn and jump over the fence. She was wild and gentle, unpredictably predictable. She was a good mix of her calm mother and her angry father, who had once jumped the fence and dented a visitor’s car door.

It was with a sad heart when I found that my dear old girl had gone to greener pastures. She marked the end of an era. She was from a time before kids, a time when my husband and I were still learning about marriage and communication. Not to imply that we have graduated those courses, but we definitely understand each other better than we did that first year of marriage. Just recently I was looking at buying a couple of mini-goats. My husband saw some of the photos I’d been looking at online. He didn’t say “no.” I think his response was something like, “I’d rather jump in a lake of piranhas!”

I’m thinking about naming the smaller of the two goats “Junior Jr.”

Brianna Walker occasionally writes about the Farmer’s Fate for the Blue Mountain Eagle.

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